This September 30, on Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we acknowledge the painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools. Many brave people have shared their experiences: what they saw, heard, and witnessed in residential schools for many decades and generations. This is a time to listen to and honour these stories.
While we continue to learn about the horrendous acts of genocide that took place, I am inspired by the resiliency, generosity, and kindness of Indigenous Peoples. Despite the atrocities, there are symbols all around us that Stó:lō culture, language, art, and Snoweyelh (laws of the land) have survived.
We see this reflected in the places where Indigenous artists have honoured the UFV community with their gifts. I was humbled to witness the recent unveiling of art by Una-Ann Moyer, a Tahltan artist, and Luke Pike, a Coast Salish artist, at the Library on our Abbotsford campus, in a ceremony that also featured the meaningful stories of Dr. Naxaxalhts’i Albert (Sonny) McHalsie. We benefit from this generosity when Indigenous advisors co-create curriculum and programs and guide us on improving services for Indigenous students. We feel this kindness when Elders walk with us, sharing their wisdom with students and employees. I believe if we all emulate this spirit of kindness and reciprocity, we will have a stronger community.
There are currently more Indigenous students, faculty, and staff at UFV than ever before. The Indigenous Student Centre reported more than 125 students applied to participate in the Indigenous Graduation Celebration in June 2022. It is crucial we work together to ensure the experiences of Indigenous students and colleagues are inclusive and respectful. It’s important to learn about the history of Indigenous Peoples where you live and work. Wear orange — a shirt, a pin, or a ribbon — and reflect on and discuss why you are wearing it. Take the many opportunities available at UFV to watch, learn, and grow, including Chowiyes-Xwithet/Rise Up-Wake Up on Thursday, September 29, and the many resources the Indigenous Affairs website offers to our diverse community.
There is much to be done to improve relationships with Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island. I hope you will join me in this work towards true systemic change.
Dr. Joanne MacLean
President and Vice-Chancellor